It was the “I’m in pain” cry, and it stole my breath. As I bolted to my daughter on the other side of the house, I began blaming myself for the encounter.
Moments earlier, my son had spotted a poorly hidden toy that grandma had surprised him with months ago. Now there was pain, tears, and guilt.
Somewhere along the way, my life had turned into a game of Clue: It was my son…in the front bathroom…with the plastic purple pistol.
If you’re not careful, parenthood can make you foolish. You’ll begin to believe crazy things…like your child will never become fascinated with guns. But I have a little boy, and he likes to emulate other little boys.
And nothing, I mean nothing, prepares you for when the gun – made from two toddler fingers – is pointed at you. The expression on my son’s face confirmed his intentions. I held my ground.
“No sir. We do not threaten harm!”
Looking back, I don’t know how I formed the words amidst the paralyzing shock. To be honest, it was my pride that suffered most. How could my perfect boy do such a thing? And, most vainly, am I to blame?
And right there – in the middle of our living room rug, our family’s hearth – I had to shatter the illusion of innocence that was hiding my son.
“We do not play with guns.”
“Guns are for hunting.”
No response. I knew this was my last chance.
“Do you want to hurt Mommy?”
[Insert head shake and pouted lip here]
“I’m sorry, Mommy.” The breakthrough.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our children don’t have our mature, educated minds. They are strongly influenced by their peers, even when you limit screen time – even when you pour all of your free time into them.
But I tell myself this is part of the process, the really hard part. Kids, after all, were born to try on new perspectives. And I know in their lives, my voice has a place. I can’t protect my son from the world, but I can prepare him for it.
I don’t know when the next “gun” will appear, but I have to trust that my son is listening – that we are equipping him to make good decisions.
And, one day, when his great trial comes, I hope our love echoes in his ears: Put down the gun.